Mythical merman, a manatee,

Gigantic rarity from the deep,

Another wounded bull beached . . .

So how does it come to sleep here

In sweat pants and polo shirt

Atop this rest home bedspread?

How will this quiet, gentle beast

Find its way back to the sea?


They say he was crazy

Dangerous in his youth, swimming

Like a porpoise torpedo

Aimed at greedy propellers

Churning, those extractors of

Want oblivious to need,

The fun hogs who left blood

In their copper-green wakes—

Too bad kids in water wings

Couldn’t get out of the way.


They say his poems haunt

The flooded stopes beneath Butte,

Poison pools that flutter like riffles

In his fingers, and the timber

Of his voice can still be heard

Ringing in the Silver Dollar Bar

If you put your ear to the neck

Of an uncorked quart of whiskey,

Half gone, and listen hard . . .


You’ll hear the cows, the chatter

Of the herd ahead, the clatter of rock

Shoveled, that scraping on stone,

And shot glasses softly clinking a toast

To the taste of that golden place

That leads to liquid home—

Where the mermaids linger wet

In the warm sun, beckoning

Him to join them, to return

To the gulf and sing the deep songs

No mortal has ever known.


for Ed Lahey (1936-2011)

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